Through a survey of 125 long-term resident households in Pima County, Arizona, this study finds that an immigration arrest costs each household an average of more than $24,000. These costs accumulate through the value of assets seized and not recovered, out-of-pocket costs for hiring an attorney, immigration bond, and other expenses involved in supporting an immediate family member as they navigate the immigration court system. But they also include lost income due to disruptions to employment resulting from the arrest, and a physical inability to work while in detention, appearing in court, and immediately following deportation. In this article, we discuss how, when measured at the scale of the household, these financial costs fail to discriminate according to immigration or citizenship status, and accumulate to affect issues of poverty, education, housing security, health and development, and generational wealth inequality — all matters of sustained interest to state and local government. In the second half of the article, we draw on our research findings to evaluate various policies that states, counties, and municipalities can implement to mitigate these financial burdens while promoting the overall well-being of their constituents. Policies considered include:
- The “Immigrant Welcoming City” paradigm
- The limitation of routine cooperation and custody transfer between local and federal law enforcement
- Expanding access to permissible forms of identification
- Universal representation for immigration defendants
- The cultivation of community bond funds
- The promotion of worker-owned cooperatives
Although these kinds of state or local initiatives cannot replace meaningful federal action on immigration reform, they can do much to provide relief and promote economic security for established immigrant and mixed-status families living in the United States, while contributing to overall community well-being and economic vitality.